John Edwards goes on trial on Monday. He is charged with use of illegal campaign contributions to cover up affair with his mistress Rielle Hunter. He allegedly received more than $900,000 from two rich donors for his campaign, with the hope of concealing his extra-marital affair from his wife and children. Edwards, 58, is accused of a conspiracy of receiving more than the $2,300 amount allowed from one donor and failing to use the money for campaign. Prosecutors say he broke the law.
His mistress Rielle Hunter became pregnant during his campaign for the 2008 elections and Edwards, with the help of Andrew Young, tried to hide it. John Edwards was at that time, father of three, whose late wife, Elizabeth, was suffering from breast cancer. She died in December 2010.
Edwards faces six criminal counts, each one carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000,if found guilty. Edwards insists he did not break laws. His defense opposes the Justice Department's definition of federal election laws, arguing that donations would have been made regardless of the campaign and they knew the money would not be used for campaign.
The former Presidential hopeful sat quiet in the court as the federal prosecutor referred to him as a man who would do anything in his power to get elected president, including breaking the law to hide his affair and keep his campaign running.
Prosecutor David Harbach said:"It wasn't just a marriage on the line. If the affair went public it would destroy his chance of becoming president, and he knew it. He made a choice to break the law."
Edwards' defense lawyers say the government is going too far with its prosecution of Edwards, who earned his money as a trial lawyer in North Carolina.
Edwards says that he has no idea about the money, which paid for private jets, luxury hotels and Hunter's medical bills plus other expenses. Prosecutors will need to prove that he made the payment. Andrew Young, former aide of John Edwards, is expected to be a witness for the government, while the defense is likely to get his mistress Hunter to testify. However, it has not been confirmed whether Edwards, a former trial lawyer, will testify in his own defense.
The Judge has 12 jurors and 4 alternates and the panel consists of 9 men and 7 women from North Carolina State. The trial could last until late May or early June.